Monday, September 10, 2012

The Dirty Dozen! The Rapids Riders Vermillion River Clean Up!

Twelve years!!  Twelve down and dirty years! 1.2 decades of hard work cleaning trash out of the Vermillion River. Over those 12 years, hundreds of caring and concerned whitewater paddlers have spent one day out of their year showing our favorite run some much needed love.  Has it been worth it?   Well in those 12 years we have removed close to 20,000 lbs of debris!  All of it manually brought up those high cliffs by people who care!   THAT is a GREAT ACCOMPLISHMENT!!

  The Verm, as it is fondly called, is an urban run in Hastings, MN.  A half  mile canyon of great play and fun surrounded by a natural park.  It's about friends.  It also has a reputation, a darker side.  Over the years there have been murders, rapes, drugs, assaults, guns, nudity and lots of sex of every variety. It's a home to the homeless and a refuge for the troubled.    Anyone who paddles the Verm will collect bizarre stories of what they saw.  When you have a place of extreme bad you'll find a balance of life in the extreme good to be found  there.  We silently watched a marriage proposal at the top of the falls and cheered when she said yes.  It is a popular place for weddings.  The joy that it brings us paddlers!  Dog walkers, family outings, photography setting, bike paths and a place to find serenity.   We all love the Verm in many ways!

  The river in the past has been used as an industrial dumping ground.  The river left cliff had tons of scrap iron that was thrown over the banks many years ago and left to rust.  Each year we have brought up some.  It would be impossible to bring it all up at once, but over the 12 years we have been picking away at it, it is nearly gone!  This year the scrap iron was the very least we have ever brought up.

  Bicycles!  In the past years the bike count was between 20 to 30 bikes!  All pulled from the water.  Each one a deadly hazard to whitewater paddlers and swimmers.  The last few years the bike count has diminished.  This year it was two!  We have not only made a difference in the amount of resident trash but we have been changing the locals attitudes toward the river.  They are keeping it cleaner!

  Each year there is always that OMG you found that moment.  The strange things that have turned up over the years.  We pulled a motorcycle out, a truck gas tank, hundreds and hundreds of pint bottles, light posts that had lined the bike path and the kids had torn down and thrown in the river, the list is huge.

  Along with cleaning the park we do trail maintenance.  It is a class 5 trail down the cliffs and during the spring run off , treacherous with ice.  David Conrad has really taken ownership of the trails.  Bringing his tools and chainsaws, he's organized a group that just clears the trails of downed trees and repairing the mud slides.  Everyone that comes will have "their" favorite place to clean.  
  This year marked a huge turning point.  The amount of annual garbage was noticeably down.  The perennial scrap iron almost  completely removed.  The actual trash and bikes in the river is reduced to nothing visible.    Twelve years of down and dirty has resulted in a beautiful park and a safer river.  If we hadn't done it can you imagine what the river would have looked like now.  Hundreds of bikes tangled in her beautiful turns.  Glass and trash everywhere.  This is something we can take pride in and continue to work together to protect and love this river.  Karma in, Karma out.  Ya gotta "love da Verm".  Thanks to everyone who helped this year!  And a very big thanks to our sponsors.  Midwest Mountaineering, ,  Shred Ready,   WRSI Safety, Hoigaards, Kokatat,  Werner Paddles, Seals Spray Skirts,  Aqua Bound,   3M, and a special thanks to Tom Lewanski for the talk about the Friends of the Mississippi  and for the continued support of our efforts. This year we also had a personal donation to the swag door prizes.  Tuck Benson donated an REI gift card!  Thank you to all our sponsors who donated to the very generous swag table!

Fabulous Door Prizes!